The National Museum of Cambodia houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Khmer cultural material including sculpture, ceramics and ethnographic objects from the prehistoric, pre-Angkorian, Angkorian and post-Angkorian periods.
The Museum promotes awareness, understanding and appreciation of Cambodia’s heritage through the presentation, conservation, safekeeping, interpretation and acquisition of Cambodian cultural material. It aims to educate and inspire its visitors.
George Groslier (1887-1945), historian, curator and author was the motivating force behind much of the revival of interest in traditional Cambodian arts and crafts, and it was he who designed this quintessential building that is today synonymous with ‘traditional Khmer’ architecture. It is perhaps better described as a building enlarged from Cambodian temple prototypes seen on ancient bas-reliefs and reinterpreted through colonial eyes to meet museum-size requirements.
Groslier’s intended museum was soon associated with the Ecole des Arts Cambodgiens (1917) and became known as the Musée du Cambodge in 1919. In 1920, this museum was soon to be officially renamed Musée Albert Sarraut after the then Governor-General of Indochina.
The foundation stone for the new museum was laid on 15 August 1917. Some two-and-a-half years later, the completed Musée Albert Sarraut was inaugurated during Khmer New Year on 13 April 1920 in the presence of H.M King Sisowath, François-Marius Baudoin, Résident-supérieur, and M. Groslier, directeur des Arts cambodgiens, and conservateur du Musée.
The original design of the building was slightly altered in 1924 with extensions that added wings at either end of the eastern façade that made the building even more imposing.
On current estimates there are 1,877 works of art on display in the museum galleries with a further 12,320 items secured in the basement storeroom. This transposes into a grand total of 14,197 works with a breakdown between works on exhibition (some 15.2%) and those in storage (some 84.8%).
There is one special exhibitions presently on show in the museum – ‘Post-Angkorian Buddha’ that opened in 2000.